I happened on the May 1974 issue of Photo World Magazine, that in this day of fast changing camera technology and constant predictions in online photography forums was very interesting to read. In it was an article entitled “Tomorrow’s Camera: Report from Japan.”
The magazine article first discussed what would be the “next major technological breakthrough in Japanese-manufactured SLRs…a solid-state shutter, which would make cameras less prone to jamming, ” and praised that break through. (That, of course happened years ago.)
The article was written by Tony Chiu and went on to discuss further topics.
On Miniaturization – “The manufacturers had misgivings about reducing the current dimensions of their SLRs because the decreasing weight reduced protection against shutter vibration.”
On Lenses – “It is conceivable that 10 years from now a compound lens may weigh more than the SLR body. (my comment – a compound lens is one that has several elements, like all of our lenses have now) Although light weight plastic lenses have long been an industry dream, there is today no major research toward their development.” (Even now one really has to spend a lot of money to get a digicam with a real glass lens, and plastic non glass lenses are the norm.)
The article also mentioned that electronic shutter cameras “in the next decade” would be an “expensive option available only to top-of-the-line models.” I am amazed at the changes that have happened since 1974 that the writer of that article, or any of the rest of us, never imagined that even inexpensive cameras would have electronics as they do today?
I found the next part is really interesting. Each of the companies was asked what their cameras of the future would be.
Canon – Suichi Ando visualized a portable camera small enough “to be carried in the pocket”, and capable of using 35mm film. Such an instrument would have a “universal lens, which can be changed by the flip of the finger from microphotography to telephotography.”
Nikon – Takateru Koakimoto said that the perfect camera would be one that excludes the chance of human error: “It will be fully automatic, perhaps with a small computer to control the exposure.” I say that he wasn’t far off in his prediction.
Olympus – Yoshihisa Maitanni believed the ideal camera would have a universal lens and one button will wind the film, focus the picture, frame the image and make the perfect exposure. He also thought “Images will be projected directly on to a sensitized material, fully edited, and enlarged.”
Ricoh – Tomomasu Takeshita predicted that major advances in the film industry would reduce the film size. “Within 20 years the 16mm camera will replace today’s 35mm camera.” Such an instrument, as he saw it, would be considerably smaller and simpler – it would have a one-piece plastic lens in a partial return to the “pinhole concept” as well as an “electronic crystal” shutter.”
Yashica – Nobukazu Sato’s dream was one that would not utilize film. “Just put the paper into the camera, make the exposure, pull the paper out and spray it.” Such a camera would make use of ultraviolet rays, and would also feature a universal lens and a fully automatic focusing system. (Both Ricoh and Yashica are no longer making cameras).
The writer of the article continued on to say “Will we see such marvels in or lifetime?”
“Perhaps by the end of this century” a photographer’s choice could be “For the amateur, a single lightweight compound lens will replace three or four of today’s standard lenses. “And price – as it is today (1974) – will remain just within reach at the upper end of your budget.”
Digital camera technology wasn’t even a dream in 1974. Yes, photographers could have their photographs printing digitally, and I remember having that done by a local printer. The paper was flimsy, but the prints were very cheap and worked fine for the underground newspaper I took pictures for. However, there was no way to take pictures only reproduce them. I can remember one of my first full time jobs working as a photographer for the California Office of Education in 1972 I bought myself the newest and coolest Pentax camera, a Spotmatic II. There weren’t any zoom or auto focus lenses at that time and the batteries it used aren’t even made today. Will the cameras that we think are amazing today even be around in 20 years? I wonder what the future will bring?